Mariani Hires A Lot of Consultants — But No One Registers as a Lobbyist

By Robert Haugh

We’ve been following the massive Mariani development proposal for a while. It’s the largest development proposal in Santa Clara near a neighborhood.

Santa Clara community leader Howard Myers is a nearby resident who opposes the current development as proposed. He’s written a couple of opinion pieces about how it’s too big and too high:

But he’s also pointed out that Lou Mariani hired Santa Clara Weekly Publisher/Lobbyist Miles Barber as a “contract lobbyist” to meet with City Hall officials.  

Myers asked the Council’s Ethics Committee if Barber or his paper should have been registered as an “expenditure lobbyist” too. That’s a person or company who supports the project through public relations or advertising or “similar activities.” There’s been no report yet on the Barber complaint.

Other “Consultants”

We’ve learned that other individuals have been hired by Mariani to help promote the project. But no one has registered as a “contract” or “expenditure” lobbyist. Some people in the community believe they may need to.

Former Councilman Kevin Moore is working for Mariani.  Mariani tells us that “we have utilized Moore as an advisor in the area of community relations.” Moore is a registered lobbyist working for many development clients. But he’s not registered for Mariani.

Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce Boardmember Harbir Bahtia “advised how to use digital media, websites etc. more effectively” said Mariani.  

Bahtia confirmed that role. But she added: “Later I attended some of the community meetings as a volunteer ombudsman for the community to make sure all the inputs from (the) community were recorded and would stay visible to the whole community.  Since I was also trying (to) implement what I thought was good community engagement. To make sure the truth was visible, and Lou said it was ok to do that. I was only on consulting for a short while.”

Also, Mariani said “we have consulted with Singer and Associates on communication needs. Currently, they have no role in the project.”

We asked Adam Alberti of Singer and Associates if he felt they should register as lobbyists. Alberti wrote: “Private individuals or companies are not subject to the same practices and codes and have no obligation to report who they contract with for professional services like communications advice. Just as you have no requirement to disclose who pays you and/or who you pay.”

We told Alberti that we this website doesn’t take payments or advertising (except when protecting our First Amendment rights)

And we asked him if he’s familiar with the lobbyist ordinance. It covers “contract”, “expenditure” and public relations or advertising or “similar activities.”

Alberti responded: “I am familiar with the column, and we are familiar with the ordinance.  It carries disclosure requirements for those engaged in lobbying. We do not lobby.”

We expect to hear more about this issue as the massive Mariani development project continues to a Council vote.

6 comments

  1. My advice to city hall —

    1. Follow the general plan.
    2. Don’t do any special favors for a well-connected developer.
    3. Don’t build above 3 stories on the El Camino.
    4. Enforce you lobbyist ordinance.
    5. Investigate and don’t just believe people who are being paid to sell us a development.

  2. Worst of all in Lou not budging is every configuration he has tried includes gobs and gobs of apartments and townhomes even as Villas across ECR from Moonlite remains half-occupied or less a year after opening. Santa Clara may still be in a housing squeeze but it isn’t in this segment of the ECR.

  3. ‘Myron’, Dean is right. The neighbors have tried to work with Lou to come to a compromise. We have done several surveys with the neighborhood to see what it would take to support the project but Lou would not budge.
    The city does not benefit much from apartments and town homes but does from hotels and restaurants. (tax revenue – wise)
    Coincidentally the neighborhood would be damaged much less by a hotel than apartments. I started suggesting to Lou they build a large hotel instead of apartments in Dec 2014.
    If Lou wants to stick with apartments he needs to lose the hotel and have the 280 apts on the full 7.2 acres. That would not be great for the neighborhood but would be in line with the existing general plan and would do less damage than the current plans.
    Robert, thanks for the coverage of this massive project.

  4. All Mariani’ needs is a good project. He has never used any of the community feedback over the last 5 years. He just keeps trying to increase his profit margin with every iteration.

    I don’t believe it’s possible to overcome the lost opportunity over the last 5 years. Both properties are in disrepair and only bring in a small percentage of what they could.

    I am sure Mariani’s father would not be very proud of what has become of the hotel property he created. The blight ridden hotel bears the name of their fruit and nut company. Ouch again!

  5. I live on one of the streets that is effected by this project. Although some believe this would be good for the city they are forgetting the people that live here will have their neighborhood turned into a zoo. Parking will be non-existent for those who live on the streets around the complex. The impact on
    the neighborhood will only effect those who live here with increased traffic and noise. However no one seems to care about those who live in the this area . We tried to address our issues with Lou several times but every time it has fallen on deaf ears. This project is way too big for a small neighborhood like ours. There are concessions to be made by both sides but until our issues are addressed we will not let this happen to our neighborhood.

  6. Seems to me that the community and Mariani’s should come together and figure something out for that large piece of property. The current use and buildings on the property are grossly underutilized and under taxed. Santa Clara like the other cities in the Bay Area needs housing desperately, to waste time and stall a greatly needed development in this city is a travesty.

    Our current economy is a great opportunity for this city to continue some of the great work they have done in the recent and distant past with terrific developments throughout the city. The economy will not stay strong and favorable forever. There will be a correction and then development will come to a screeching halt that will last for years.

    For the good of the people, lets support our council on their continued efforts to improve this great city and help them find a solution to improve this very visible and centrally located on a major artery piece of property. To let is sit there and rot is not in the citizens or city’s best interest.

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